TB situation in Northumberland

On 24th July, we were present at a very well attended meeting in Otterburn, organised by the NFU, regarding the TB situation in Northumberland. White calf looking at camera

Radical zones

Some of you may be aware there are two Radial Zones in effect in Northumberland at the moment. Those affected all know who they are, as we have been in contact with them. We would like to stress that Northumberland is still classified as TB Free.

A radial zone is established after finding a positive reactor on a TB skin test, and then a positive culture is found in the lab. A 3km zone is then triggered from the edge of all the fields of the affected farm – in this case one farm with two premises – and all cattle are tested three times at six month intervals. If this is clear then the restrictions will be lifted.

The cow in question was very locally sourced and had no movement since its introduction to the herd more than 10 years ago so it is not known where this specific bacterium has come from yet.  This is part of the purpose of the radial zones – an enhanced surveillance measure to check local cattle – which will show if it is in the local wildlife population or crossing fences by cattle to cattle contact.  At the time of print there is no evidence of this.

When purchasing cattle

We would however like to stress the importance of sourcing TB free cattle before purchase. Cattle movement is to blame for the outbreaks in Cumbria and Derbyshire – both of which were TB free not so long ago. If cattle must be bought from a HRA (high risk area) then we would suggest asking for a Gamma Interferon test before purchase. If this, and the obligatory post movement TB test, are clear this can give more (but not definitive) certainty that the animal is TB free.

Purchasing straw

Buying straw from high risk areas is also a risk.  This is relatively safe if picked up straight from the field, but if it has been stored and then badgers allowed to play in it, the TB mycobacterium can stay infectious for 3 months. Bought in slurry is also high risk.

For those clients that are classified as finishing units, we would like to draw your attention to becoming a ‘Licensed Finishing Unit’. This essentially means badger proofing your sheds, and those cattle that come into the premises are all destined for slaughter straight into an abattoir. The main benefit is the exemption from post movement TB testing and radial testing.

For more info, please visit the TB Hub website or speak to your local branch.


This article is from our August 2019 farm newsletter.


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